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Brunch and BDGs: Urban Outfitters Ramps Up Lifestyle Retail

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Salt Surf in Space Ninety 8's rotating "Market Space." Photo by Driely S. for Racked New York.
Salt Surf in Space Ninety 8's rotating "Market Space." Photo by Driely S. for Racked New York.

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URBN Inc.—proprietors of Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People, bridal brand BHLDN, and gardening shop Terrain—opened their latest concept shop in New York City last week, nested in the notoriously hipster (but rapidly mall-ifying) neighborhood of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Called Space Ninety 8, it's another step in the direction of so-called "experience retail" for the company, expanding beyond shopping (there are four floors for that) to a restaurant and a rooftop bar.

The new unit mimics Space 15 Twenty, a similar retail approach opened years back in Los Angeles, and hints at what may come of Dover Yard, URBN's 6.5 acre project in the Philadelphia suburbs. While the company has long embraced lifestyle shopping—selling record players, repurposed vintage, and Levi's under the same roof—they're undoubtably ramping up efforts to create engagement in-store that goes deeper than replenishing your trusty BDG skinnies. Retail strategist Candace Corlett told Racked, "The number one motivator is convenience. Urban Outfitters isn't on your corner, you have to go to it—therefore, people need to be able to get a lot done in the same place."

A primer on their concepts so far, and why you shouldn't be surprised if your local UO gains a coffee shop, after the jump.

Space 15 Twenty, Los Angeles, CA

Opened in November 2008, Space 15 Twenty was URBN's first dip into many-spaces-under-one-umbrella retailing (dare we say, mini-mall). The current roster of shops includes Urban Outfitters, Free People, visual arts bookstore Hennessey + Ingalls, and skateboard shop Pharmacy. Connected by an outdoor courtyard, the lineup is completed by an Umami Burger outpost, a nail art studio, dedicated performance space, a gallery, and pop-up space—offered free to cool brands. Most recently, Space 15 Twenty gained the first-ever standalone Urban Renewal boutique, selling the company's reworked vintage alongside wares selected by some of LA's top vintage dealers, as well as the debut Without Walls store, URBN's answer to fashionable activewear fever.

The location is smartly positioned near the Hollywood Farmers' Market, attracting crowds every Sunday and sweet, sweet foot traffic, a huge asset in drive-by LA.

Space 15 Twenty offers a look at the recipe now being replicated elsewhere: Combine company-owned shops with local-favorite vendors, add a dash of newness and urgency with rotating pop-up space, give the kids somewhere to eat and lounge, and finish it off with event space. In total, the shopper (or diner or nail art client) is transported to a world that elevates the perception of URBN by aligning the familiar (Urban Outfitters, Free People) with of-the-moment cool.

Westwood Village and Malibu, Los Angeles, CA

Urban Outfitters is busy expanding the lifestyle concept to other stores in LA. Their shop in Westwood Village, near the UCLA campus, is being relocated to a larger space down the block, and will flaunt separate entrances for the women's and men's sections with a walk-up food window in the later department. Corlett tells us, "There's a lot of evidence that food and shopping go together like peanut butter and jelly."

Dedicated chillzone at the Malibu store. Photo by Elizabeth Daniels for Racked LA.

Their Malibu "mecca," as Racked LA described it, opened late last summer and on top of an in-store photobooth and Etsy vendor section, boasts a permanent Coolhaus ice cream sandwich truck (a multi-store partnership), free Wifi, backyard hammocks for lounging, and a large wall dedicated to screening movies—no purchase required. There's more than one way to "be" in this store space without shopping.

Space Ninety 8, Brooklyn, NY

How did they translate the concept to less sprawl-y NYC? They built up. The Space concept in Brooklyn occupies a total of four floors, plus a basement, and a roof deck, all connected by elevator. There's only one entrance, where shoppers are greeted by The Market Space, dedicated to local designers. Urban Renewal has half the ground floor, and the rest is split among a shoe boutique and two rotating pop-up spaces (debut occupants are Salt Surf and Tee Party). Chakra-balancing candles, sage for burning, and deerskin crystal pouches are among the offerings near the cash wrap, with prices hand-written for that "discovered" feel.

Photo by Driely S. for Racked New York

The second and third floors house Urban Outfitters' womenswear and menswear as well as music, while the rotating basement space (called "Gallery 98") is currently occupied by Adidas Originals, with displays painted by local artist Jason Woodside. The not-yet-open restaurant is lofted above the third floor, and will serve as the NY extension of LA's The Gorbals. The roof deck offers a bar (there are three bars in total), which closes at 11pm.

Shaded tables on the roof. Photo by Driely S. for Racked New York.

This outpost isn't URBN's first foray into food. The company's gardening offshoot, Terrain, offers "garden cafes" at both its Glen Mills, PA and Wesport, CT stores. The food offerings extend from brunch through dinner, and they even rent the space out for private events.

Much like the LA location, the Brooklyn shop benefits from killer foot traffic, as it is positioned directly between the subway and the waterfront, where the Brooklyn Flea draws tourists and locals alike every weekend.

Herald Square, New York, NY

Come June, New York City will gain another "lifestyle center" from URBN. Weighing in at a whopping 57,000 square feet, the flagship in Herald Square is confirmed to offer a hair salon, eyeglasses shop, coffee shop, and a food element. Meanwhile, the Urban Outfitters Fifth Avenue flagship recently added a coffee bar. Retail editor Aria Hughes of WGSN explains that the addition of cafes and salons are as simple as they seem: "Offering non-shopping services in-store gives their guests an additional reason to visit the store and increases dwell time, which in turn increases purchases."

Devon Yard, Devon, Pennsylvania

That's nothing compared to the project URBN has in the works for Devon, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia. Announced in October, the 6.5 acre site will have a boutique hotel, two restaurants, a specialty foods market, a spa, a boutique fitness studio, a Terrain garden center, and an Anthropologie store.

"Unlike massive malls, which aren't doing well, Urban Outfitters is fostering a lifestyle, offering services that directly target that community," Hughes told Racked by e-mail. "They don't aim to cater to everyone, instead targeting guests that align with their aesthetic and promoted image." Corlett echoed that sentiment: "They're creating the counter to the demise of the mall. They're creating a lifestyle space that attracts people who are likeminded, giving them services that they'll like." UO's chief development officer Dave Ziel told Devon locals at township meeting, "When you see a 'lifestyle center' you often see a Chico's, a J. Crew, a Cheesecake Factory. That's not what we're about."

Devon Yard rending.

The massive complex was originally slated for April 2016, proposed by Wade McDevitt, husband of Terrain president Wendy McDevitt and brother-in-law to Scott Belair, UO's co-founder. Wade was chairman of the Devon Horse Show, which planned to lease lots to the URBN project, but has since stepped down. His replacement, Sarah Cox Lange, said early last month that she hadn't heard a peep from URBN since replacing Wade: "No one's called me, made any effort to call me, called any of the board."

A garden cafe at a Terrain store. Photo via

Why It Works

With its lifestyle centers and more-than-just-shopping stores, URBN is marrying experience with convenience. "Guests want the in-store shopping experience to be more than a transaction," says Hughes. "The store experience needs to be engaging and fun, ultimately providing something they can't find online." Corlett agrees, saying, "You have to be creative. [Today's] shopper doesn't want to part with her money. Her number two dream [after owning a home] is paying down her debt."

But will these massive undertakings make a dent in URBN's bottom line? Corlett thinks they must, at some point: "With a venture this large, it has to become profitable. There's a limit to how much you can invest in cachet."
· All Urban Outfitters coverage [Racked]
· Urban Outfitters CEO Says Brand Has Been Full of Misses [Racked]